What Shoes to Wear to the Gym?

We all go to the gym to keep ourselves fit with exercise both freehand and with weights. For that we have our own sets of sports clothes and yoga mats. We even have special types of gym shoes. So, what shoes to wear to the gym? Companies like Adidas and Nikes have their separate segment of producing gym shoes. There is a huge variety in the types and design of gym shoes which often confuse customers to pick one for the gym.

A very common question that gym trainers get is “What type of shoes to wear to the gym?” To be honest this question has multiple answers. Let’s look through what shoes to wear to the gym so you can pick the one best suited for your workout.

What is a Gym Shoe?

Most of the common people do not know that there is a special type of shoe for the gym. These shoes have different variations. Different shoes are used for different workouts. A traditional gym shoe is a little low profile. It has traditional cushioning on the side and insoles.

The most important and basic requirements for a gym shoe is to have a hard and solid sole. The harder the sole, the greater the force it will generate for weight lifting. It is also important that gym shoes have flat soles. Because the closer you are to the ground, the more stable your stance will be.

Tip: Running Shoes are Not Gym Shoes

Running Shoes

One common mistake most of us make is considering running shoes as gym shoes. Most of us wear them and go to the gym to do squats, lifting and other heavy workouts.

Running shoes have a soft cushiony sole. It basically reduces the load transfer to the ground and gives our feet a comfortable spot. This may be good for running, hiking, jogging and other outdoor workouts but it limits your ability to do weight lifting.

Why You Need Gym Shoes: Scientific Explanation

When you are doing weight lifting, your body muscle needs to generate force. Your body pushes the ground and generates the necessary force for that. So, it is important that your body effectively transfers the load to the ground. It will also give your feet enough stability to support the extra weight.

Running shoes are not good at transferring the load to the ground effectively. Their soft, shock absorbing soles eliminates most of the load. As a result you will need to generate more extra force for weight lifting.

This reduces the efficiency of your workout. Also the soft sole makes your feet unstable and you might get involved in accidents while weight lifting. So running shoes are not gym shoes.

Types of Gym Shoes

What Shoes to Wear to the Gym - gym shoes

The type of gym shoes are designed specifically for the workout you are doing. In the gym, most people do weight lifting, dead lifting, squats and other heavy workouts. So basically we are talking about shoes for weightlifting. If we break down the designs of the weightlifting shoes available in the market, we will get three basic types of shoes.

  • Traditional Weightlifting Shoes with Cushioned Bottom

These shoes have a simple and plain design with a cushioned bottom. It is one of the most common types of gym sneakers. These types of shoes are suitable for upper body and freehand workouts. The cushions keep your feet comfortable. You can easily do rope skipping, jumping jacks and other jumping exercises. It is ideal for push-ups, stomach crunches because of its firm grip.

On the downside, the cushioned bottom prohibits effective load transfer. As a result, gym trainers do not recommend these shoes for squats and other heavy workouts like weightlifting, deadlifts. We know the scientific explanation of weightlifting.

The more solid and stable support we get from the ground, the more effectively we can lift weights and do squats. But the bottom cushions of these shoes work like a pillow between your feet and the ground. So, these types of shoes are not suitable for weight lifting and heavy workouts.

  • Casual Shoes with Non-Cushioned Bottom

You may know them as “Converse” or “Chuck Taylors”. These are casual shoes with a hard and solid bottom. Only the insoles are cushioned for protecting your feet, giving you a firm contact with the ground. But this low profile cushion does not prohibit necessary load transfer from your body to the ground.

The hard outsole provides you with stable support for lifting heavy weights. The flat design of these shoes keeps you closer to the ground and gives you additional support.

Keep note that these shoes are not recommended for running. You can easily get injured. Moreover, as it fully transfers the load between your body and the ground, your kneecaps will have to deal with a dangerous amount of force while running on these. So use these shoes only for weight lifting, not for running.

  • Elevated Lifting Shoes (Riser)

It is a slightly upgraded version of the converse. These types of shoes come with sporty design and side cushioning. The key design of these shoes is that it has an elevated hill, making a forward curved sole. This design allows your knee to travel more forward. This is very helpful for squats.

So, these elevated shoes are recommended for front squats, back squats and weight lifting. If you are doing Olympiad weight lifts, which requires you to keep a stable torso, then this is your best choice.

But the elevated shoes are not recommended for deadlifts. It is very dangerous to do them in these shoes. Because these shoes make your knee travel more forward, and with the heavy weight of deadlifts, your knee might easily get injured. So to do deadlifts, trainers recommend the converse or to do it barefoot.

So, these are the three basic types of gym shoes. You might see different types of gym shoes from Adidas, Nikes but if you take their principles and break them down, you will get these three types.


What Shoes To Wear To The Gym? The answer is it depends on what type of workouts you are doing. If you are doing deadlifts, go for the Converse. If you are doing weight lifts, go for the elevated lifting shoes aka Riser and if you are on for basic freehand, upper body workouts, go for the traditional sneakers. 

It totally depends on the type of workouts you are doing.

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